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Cruise Ship Information

Seven Seas Mariner is a cruise ship for Regent Seven Seas Cruises (formerly Radisson Seven Seas Cruises). She was the first all-suite, all-balcony ship in the world, and was awarded "Ship of the Year" in 2002 by Ocean and Cruise News. Also, she was the first to offer dining by the famous Le Cordon Bleu of Paris in one of the onboard restaurants. Her staff to guest ratio is 1 to 1.6.

In 2009, Seven Seas Mariner made the news when it rescued an around-the-world-sailor from a crippled sailing yacht west of New Zealand.

Atmosphere on board

At a time when mass-market cruise ships are getting so big they practically need their own postcodes, luxury operator Regent Seven Seas Cruises has made a splash with a distinctly retro concept: building medium-sized ships with relatively low passenger capacity and offering gracious service in a spacious environment.

It has also maintained the quality of its ships with ongoing investment, spending upward of $25 million on a 2014 refurbishment of Seven Seas Mariner which, though 13 years old, has been kept in excellent condition.

All this work has made the 50,000-ton ship a perfect vessel for travelers who crave a cozy, stylish and intimate onboard environment but who don't want to sacrifice big-ship amenities like multiple restaurants and a good choice of bars.

With a passenger capacity of only 700 (double occupancy), this is a ship with some breathing room. Its passenger-to-space ratio (tonnage divided by passenger capacity) is an impressive 68.6, while its passenger-to-crew ratio of 1.57 creates a relaxed environment with attentive service.

Is it expensive? Yes it is, but even the lowest accommodations are suites, every stateroom has a balcony, and prices include tips, all onboard drinks, free dining in two excellent speciality restaurants, complimentary onboard Wi-Fi access and the majority of shore excursions. So, if you can stretch to the fare, you'll get terrific value for money.

There are elements of Seven Seas Mariner that are retro in the best sense of the word. The ship's main dining venue, Compass Rose, is a classic ship's restaurant in that it lies midship, is on only one level and is simply but elegantly presented (and particularly pleasant at lunchtime, when there are plenty of window tables offering sea views).

Another throwback to earlier generations of cruise ships is the absence of a bar in Mariner's main lobby, even though it lies at the bottom of an impressively modern eight-deck atrium.

Instead, the ship has the wonderfully sophisticated, intimate and softly-lit Mariner Lounge (the best onboard watering hole, in our opinion) between the atrium and the Compass Rose. This arrangement leaves the reception area quiet and uncrowded, a comfortable place to relax or meet fellow cruisers.

Lovers of classic ship design will be very much at home on board and will find the ship sophisticated but delightfully unpretentious. Onboard service is friendly, professional and prompt, and though the majority of passengers are older well-traveled couples, this is also ship that has embraced the trend toward multigenerational family travel. Children are genuinely welcomed onboard, and a dedicated children's program is offered during school summer holidays.

Any downsides? Well, the artwork onboard wasn't our favorite, and the ship is a victim of Regent's success in that -- with many itineraries sailing nearly full -- it could be hard to get a table in the ersatz but very pleasant Settee Mari Italian restaurant, created every evening in La Veranda Cafe. Since only one reservation per passenger can be made in each of in Mariner's two speciality restaurants per cruise, this left us feeling rather confined to the Compass Rose at dinnertime.

But that's a mere quibble; overall it's a delightful ship and a pleasure to sail on.

Past Passenger Programs

Mariner's newly refurbished public rooms mirror the ship's classic style and casual elegance, and its internal layout is beautifully simple.

Right at the top of the ship on Deck 12 is a lovely Observation Lounge which, as its name suggests, offers panoramic 270-degree sea views and has a glamorous new 1930s Hollywood look, its pale ivory and gold seating accented with splashes of deep ruby on the carpet.

One deck down from there, you'll find La Veranda/Sette Mari, the Pool Grill and the decent-sized, recently re-tiled swimming pool, flanked by showers and three whirlpools with a view.

The rest of Mariner's public rooms span decks 5 to 7. Deck 7 hosts the casino and a well-stocked and fairly reasonably priced boutique, where you can pick up any forgotten essentials like sun cream, as well as luxury goods like perfume, handbags, collared shirts and other goodies. This deck also holds the Canyon Ranch Spa (see Spa & Fitness section).

One deck Down on Deck 6, you'll find the ship's main entertainment area, with the stylish two-tier Constellation Theatre at the forward end and the comfortable Horizon Lounge at the aft.

Both received major facelifts during the ship's 2014 refit. The theatre gained a new LED wall, which acts as a spectacular backdrop for productions. The theater has also been upholstered and re-carpeted to provide maximum comfort for showgoers, and it boasts new wall coverings, cocktail tables, wall sconces, banquette seats and chairs.

Meanwhile, the Horizon Lounge has gained a new stone-fronted bar and has been enhanced by chic new furnishings and lighting, deep new carpeting and lustrous wall coverings.

The Stars Lounge nightclub, set midship on Deck 6, now has a dramatic new look and is clad in sophisticated shades of plum, smoky gray, gold, black and cream. Highlights include a new stone-topped bar, wool carpets, leather seats, dark hardwood panelling and hammered-copper accents.

Deck 6 also holds the ship's well-stocked (and permanently accessible) library and Internet Center. (Incidentally, Wi-Fi and Internet access are now included in Regent's fares as part of line's multimillion-dollar investment in upgrading connectivity. From November 2014, passengers booking Concierge-level suites or higher will receive up to 500 minutes of free Wi-Fi. Exactly how much you get depends on which category of suite you book.)

Also located on Deck 6 are a card and conference room, Signatures restaurant, the ship's Art Auction displays and the Connoisseurs Club (a cozy venue for lovers of fine liqueurs), as well as the Garden Promenade, an airy, pleasant midship venue for reading, relaxing and enjoying delightfully old-fashioned pursuits like putting together jigsaw puzzles.

Our whistlestop tour of the vessel ends on Deck 5, where, at the bottom of the main atrium, you'll find the ship's reception and tours desks, as well as the lower level of the Constellation Theatre, the Compass Rose Restaurant (which spans the full width of the ship and offers sea views on both sides) and the Prime Seven steakhouse.

This deck also holds the ship's loveliest bar, the Mariner Lounge. With its soft lighting, tinkling piano and vast, feather-soft armchairs, it's THE place to enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail. This has also been refurbished with a new bar, stone flooring and some pretty lamps and tables. A highlight is the vast "birdcage" set at one end of the bar, containing a dazzling candelabra.

Mariner's new look isn't confined to the indoor areas; the ship's exterior decks and alfresco lounges also got a makeover. New teak has been installed on the balconies of all 350 suites and teak decking resurfaced to "good as new" standard. Outdoor areas gained elegant new all-weather sofas, chairs and loungers, too.

Fitness And Spa

The Canyon Ranch Spa Club on Deck 7 now has new steam rooms and stone flooring, as well as refurbished changing rooms. And the ship's Fitness Center was equipped with brand-new state-of-the-art exercise equipment in the 2014 refit.

Spa facilities include a roomy salon for hairdressing, manicures, pedicures and waxing.

The adjacent spa offers a sauna and steam bath, speciality facials (from $177 for 50 minutes to $290 for 80 minutes) and a similarly priced range of massages and body treatments, including organic seaweed leaf body wraps, coffee-based skin scrubs and body polishing treatments that involve crushed bamboo pulp mixed with oils of ginger, fir and wild lime.

For those who feel they must work hard in order to deserve all that pampering, the fitness center is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and has a good range of equipment, including four treadmills, resistance machines and cross trainers. An exercise program is offered daily, starting at 7 a.m., with "Walk a Mile." Other options include yoga, "Legs Bums and Tums" and other classes (all free).

Some of these activities take place in the spa's aerobics room, while others are based on the top deck (12), which has a jogging track, paddle tennis court, golf nets, a putting green and areas for playing bocce and shuffleboard.

Food & Dining

Michelin may only grant them a maximum of three stars, but in our book Seven Seas Mariner's two speciality restaurants -- 100-seat Signatures (which serves Cordon Bleu cuisine) and Prime Seven (a magnificent steakhouse that seats 70) -- rate closer to five.

Prime Seven, an elegant enclave tucked away next door to the Compass Rose on Deck 5, dished up the most meltingly delicious filet mignon we've tasted in a long time and delivered it just as requested: medium rare, butterflied and butter-soft.

And Signatures, one deck above, offers food and wine as stylish as its glass-and-marble entrance. Dishes include classic tournedos of beef with foie gras, a fabulously varied, authentically French cheese board and gorgeous puddings like poached fig with light-as-a-feather cream cheese millefeuille.

Better still, you get complimentary and generously poured lashings of top-quality wine, including Sancerre and Chateauneuf du Pape, to wash it all down.

Indeed, Mariner's two speciality restaurants are so special that when the ship is full (as, with so much included, it increasingly is), passengers can secure only one reservation per week.

But not to worry: Dine in main restaurant Compass Rose or at Sette Mari (the stylish Italian restaurant into which Mariner's La Veranda Cafe is transformed each evening), and you most certainly won't be slumming it.

Sette Mari opens every evening from 6:30 p.m. and is a good option if you enjoy a relaxed atmosphere, love Italian food and don't mind collecting your salads, dessert and cheese from a buffet. Get in early (or be prepared to eat late) if you want a window table or a table for two; know that you'll have to be patient. As our cruise progressed and word spread about the quality of the food there, the waiting list for two-top tables grew longer, though diners happy to socialize at larger tables had no problem.

Plates of tasty bruschetta, deep-fried mozzarella balls, roasted garlic cloves and freshly baked speciality bread -- along with all-important olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip it in -- are all served at the table and virtually constitute a meal in themselves. But we held back to make the most of an excellent minestrone soup, a slightly lemon-scented spaghetti carbonara and delicious grilled lamb chops. This barely left room to sample the broad selection of desserts, which include classic Italian tiramisu, a substantial fruit salad and various almond-laden cakes.

When Mariner is sailing full, tables for two can also be at a premium in the Compass Rose. (Again, get in early, eat late, or prepare to be sociable.) But no such restrictions apply at lunchtime, and by day this very pleasant dining room -- with its deeply comfortable, armchair-style red and gold seating -- is a delight. All restaurants are open seating.

On a sea day, we watched the glittering waves go by while tucking into a delicious lamb burger served Greek-style on pita bread with tsatsiki. And the food was equally good in the evenings. We particularly remember a piping hot and very tasty Conchiglie Vongole, crisp-skinned grilled sea bass and a simple but perfect creme brulee. Hours for Compass Rose are noon to 1:30 p.m. for lunch and 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for dinner.

All restaurants also offer a good range of ice creams, and if you're craving a treat from Prime Seven or Signatures, you can have one in the main dining room. There are also low-carb, low-sodium, vegetarian and spa/healthy menu options.

During the day, Sette Mari reverts to being La Veranda, a large, pleasant indoor/outdoor space for breakfast and lunch buffets, which occupy nearly the entire aft end of Mariner's Pool Deck. There's room for about 50 people to eat breakfast alfresco under a canopy on the fantail -- another lovely retro touch, reminiscent of classic ocean liners on which open-air breakfast and coffee with great views of sea or port were the norm. Breakfast in La Veranda is offered from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., and lunch runs from noon to 2 p.m. A light "Fitness Breakfast" is served at the Pool Grill from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

There is more outdoor seating forward of La Veranda in the ship's pool area, which looks very smart, having had its teak decking resurfaced and new resort-style sofas, chairs and loungers installed.

Indeed, the Pool Grill and La Veranda areas have received eye-catching upgrades with new mosaic tiling, fresh wall coverings and new draperies, lighting and awnings. They're particularly pleasant at lunchtime and in the early afternoon, when a melodic musical group sings popular middle-of-the-road classics in foot-tapping style.

Just outside La Veranda, you'll find a well-stocked ice cream station, a salad bar and grill and an easy-to-use coffee machine which serves up fresh lattes, cappuccino, espresso and macchiato coffees and hot chocolate, all made with real milk. (The only downside is that the coffee is rather weak, so add an extra shot of espresso if you like it strong.)

On summer sea days in the Med, Seven Seas Mariner hosts a spectacular Mediterranean Buffet and barbecue out on the pool deck, featuring fresh local fish and delicious grilled meats -- a real treat.

And if all that food isn't enough for you, you can grab a coffee and a complimentary cookie, a piece of fruit or a light snack at Coffee Connection, an attractive but (on our trip) underused cafe next to the library on Deck 6.

A nice feature there is that newspapers are available to read in various languages, and they're hung on traditional cafe newspaper poles. Facsimile satellite editions of your favorite paper can also be delivered to your cabin daily for $6.50 per paper. Options include USA Today and four other U.S. papers, The Times and Financial Times (U.K.), Canada's National Post and a range of European titles like Le Monde (France) and Holland's De Telegraaf.

If, after all this food, you're feeling too full to struggle out of your suite, don't worry -- you can eat there, too. A 24-hour room service menu offers everything from sandwiches and pizza to salads, burgers and pasta.

During dinner hours, passengers may also order room service from the Compass Rose dinner menu. Menus for all dining venues are broadcast daily on in-suite televisions.

Entertainment

This is one area where Mariner's retro style really makes itself felt.

Passages, the ship's daily newsletter, lists some classic daytime activities like quizzes, cooking demonstrations, Bridge and board game sessions, on-deck paddle tennis, Ping-Pong and shuffleboard tournaments, ballroom dancing, scarf-tying lessons and even a daily "Bingo Bonanza."

There are also occasional enrichment lectures, daily art auctions and "Popcorn Movie" screenings of recently-released films in the ship's main show lounge, the Constellation Theatre.

Afternoon tea in the ship's Horizon Lounge is a perennially popular diversion (particularly when Mariner's pastry chef titivates the taste buds with his Chocoholic range of cakes). And proceedings are further enlivened by a bout of Teatime Trivia.

In the evening, the excellent (and never too loud) Nature Rhythm Trio entertains passengers over pre-dinner drinks and canapes in the Mariner Lounge while the ship's pianist tinkles away in the top-deck Observation Lounge. Meanwhile, passengers prepare to pay extra tuck into caviar and Champagne. (Prices vary according to quantity and quality.)

Most nights around 9:30, the smart and extensively refurbished Constellation Theatre hosts a cabaret slot by a solo performer or a production show specially designed for RSSC. "Cirque Rock 'n Roll" is a spectacular event in which acrobats perform aerial routines choreographed to music by Michael Jackson, Pink, Queen and other rock legends.

If you prefer dancing yourself to watching others do it, the Stars Lounge nightclub on Deck 6 is the place to be, as it hosts live music and a late-night Jukebox Disco. The Horizon Lounge is the place to go through your Latino dance paces or get on down to '60s tunes played by the Regent Signature Orchestra.

Elsewhere on the ship, you might find a gentle "Name that Tune" competition in which to participate or a "Karaoke Dance Party" in full swing -- and there's always plenty of action in the ship's small but elegant casino on Deck 7. It has craps, roulette, poker and blackjack tables and a small number of slot machines.

Fellow Passengers

This line attracts mature and well-heeled Baby Boomers who are sophisticated, well-traveled and tolerant. Many are repeaters, and they make the most of Regent's included shore tours to experience as much of the cruise destinations as they can. (That means the pool area is blissfully quiet on port days.) On summer itineraries, as many as 20 percent of passengers travel with children, grandchildren or both. Single travelers are also onboard, in response to generous reductions on single supplements on some sailings.

Tipping

Gratuites are included in the Regent Cruise fare and no further tipping is expected once onboard.

If guests feel strongly about expressing their gratitude to the crew, they should be encouraged to make a donation to the Crew Welfare Fund at the Purser Office. This money is utilized for crew parties and events.

Our recommendation

Although the most important factors in choosing a cruise are usually itinerary, cost, and the ship, many of us still want comfortable accommodations. Years ago, cabin features were way down the list of decision-making factors. However, times have changed. Cabin amenities have increased, and new ships have larger cabins and more balconies because cruisers have demanded it. In 2001, the first all-suite, all-balconied cruise ship--the Seven Seas Mariner--was launched. Several years later, the ship is still one of the best afloat. Let's take a look at the different cabin categories on the Seven Seas Mariner.